Bard Reputation: Pop stars pick their favourite poets.
To celebrate National Poetry Day, Dave Simpson talks to musicians about the joys – and occasional tribulations – of setting verse to music.
I wasn’t taught poetry at school, but after I left I got into Liverpool beat poets such as Brian Patten and Adrian Henri. I related to their use of grand images next to a rainy, shitty street in the suburbs or city. Songs such as God and Trees [on Wake Up the Nation] started out as poems. Down in the Tube Station at Midnight was originally a poem, until the Jam’s producer said it would make a great song. People have said that the Jam turned working-class kids on to poetry. Around the time of All Mod Cons people started sending me stuff they’d written in their bedrooms, which normally they’d be too embarrassed to tell anyone about. Some of it was great, so we published it. One fan sent me the Shelley poem The Mask of Anarchy and we used it on the cover of Sound Affects. I’m not some pseudo intellectual – I just thought it was brilliant.